A Piece of Brass or a Piece of Bread

Posted: March 9, 2011 in Christian Living

Numbers 21:1-9

“And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners.

And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.

And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.

¶ And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.

And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

The children of Israel were not long from Egypt’s bondage.  They had been delivered through the Red Sea, they had witnessed Moses’ sister Miriam praise the Lord after their great deliverance.  They had witnessed Aaron’s failure with the golden calf, his restoration into the priesthood of the tabernacle and then his death.  They had witnessed manna from Heaven, and had forgotten how God had slaked their thirst with water pouring from a rock.  They began to complain about where they were in God.  At that point, God sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. The people asked Moses for intercede for them to the Lord…And the Lord told him to build a brass pole with the image of a snake and told anyone that had been bitten to look at it.  God miraculously healed anyone that beheld the brazen serpent on the pole.  The people revered this brasswork.  This scripture does not indicate forgiveness for murmuring against God. Upon hearing of someone being bitten, the Levites were busy running from dusty periphery to the ends of the camp, acres upon acres upon hearing of someone being bitten by these venomous snakes.  It became the forerunner of the symbol universally used to represent the medical profession, the medical cadeuce.  Everyone lived.  But what it does not say is as important.  Fast forward 800 years to the time of King Hezekiah of Judah.  800 years.

2 Kings 18:1-5

“Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.

Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.

And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

He trusted in the LORD God of Israel;…”


This brass serpent would become a superstitious talisman for the Israelites.  They would revere it.  It would remain in the house of Israel for hundreds of years, though the time of the judges to the anointing of Saul as King, David to Solomon to Rehoboam, up to king Hezekiah (a contemporary of Isaiah).  Its original meaning long lost as Israel become more and more “contemporary”.  This brazen serpent had become a stone of stumbling to the children of Israel.  They had been burning incense to a memory of what God had done in their past with mixed worship of idols.  Their worship of the Lord was based upon ancient history.  Nehushtan was only a reminder of what God did in the past. They worshipped the “good old days”, the memory of God meeting the needs of the people.

Perhaps they thought they would please the Lord in this way. They were so backslidden in their ways and so far removed from actually having their needs met by the Lord that they were burning incense to an archaic lifeless icon, one dead, with no life.  It was no longer a healing source, but now merely a PIECE of BRASS.

Do you want a piece of Brass or a Piece of Bread?

A Piece of Bread

John 6:28-40

“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

This dialogue occurred immediately after Jesus had fed the five thousand.  Jews desiring to do the “works of the Lord” came to Him seeking the ability to do the works of God.  Notice they wanted the power or ability to do the works of God.  They were not seeking a work of the heart, but of power.  Their motives were not pure.  They did not understand that Jesus represented a new and better Kingdom on this earth.  The Jews clearly did not understand that the greatest work they could possibly do would be to believe on him whom he hath sent (v28-29).

What Jesus was saying in plain language was they must believe that He was the Son of God.  Much like our own response would be, theirs was “PROVE IT” and do it by giving a sign. These Jews had hearts as carnal as those in the wilderness with Moses.  Jesus told them that he was that true Bread from Heaven, NOT like the manna in the wilderness.  He said He was and is the source of life, saying, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. There is finality in the word, never.  It means that if you believe that Jesus is who He said He is you will NEVER hunger, and NEVER thirst.  I read no conditions to it.  If and when you come to Jesus Christ, you will NEVER again hunger.  You will NEVER again thirst.  You will never need to offer some kind of work to prove His power is working in you, whether it be to please Him, or just to get on His “good” side!

John 3:7-21

“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

Jesus mentions the phrase “he that came down from heaven”, a familiar phrase.  He alone can protect us from the fiery darts of doubt and despair we encounter in our walk with God.  We may walk in the wilderness, and we may be struck by venomous adversaries , but we are helped by looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Jesus has offered Himself as the brazen serpent for our broken and needy lives.  We MUST look to him in order to live.  We have no other choice.  Such an easy work to do.  Jesus said, He that believeth on him is not condemned.

What a wonderful place to be!  To not be condemned! To know that you are NOT condemned for your sins that are past!  Jesus is our bread of life.  Jesus is our source of healing for brokenness of our spirit.

Mark 2:14-28; Luke 5:29-39; 6:1-5

“And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.

And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance…

Jesus ate and drank WITH us when we did not really know him.  He fellowships us after we have come to him.  In our broken and needy conditions, when we fail even in our OWN standards, He still calls us, sits with us, and breaks bread and wine with us.

And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.

And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?

How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.”

David was a desperate man.  He had been running from Saul for a long time.  He was tired.  He was hungry.  He was discouraged.  And he did something unheard of by going in to the tabernacle and eating bread normally prepared exclusively for the priesthood.  What would cause a person after God’s own heart to enter into a holy place with God to do something He was otherwise forbidden to do?

The answer is, he had need.

Jesus will allow you to be unconventional.  He will let you come to him when your world is falling apart.  He will let you into the tabernacle even if it is only to look upon him to save your life!  He will allow you to be totally unconventional or completely original in your quest to have your needs met by Him.  He may allow you into His holy presence suddenly, confronting you with bread to feed your soul.  You will NEVER be hungry there.  You will NEVER be thirsty there!

God is not merely a piece of brass.  He is not a physical substance.  He is not a building, an organization, a form or a fashion.  God is not just a memory of good things gone by, or the “good old days”.  He is not gathering dust in the corner of the tabernacle.

David found bread in the tabernacle.  When all else failed he knew he could find bread in the tabernacle of God.  It doesn’t matter WHAT your condition or need; Jesus is our bread.  He it is that meets our needs when we look upon Him.

He promised that he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst

Please, don’t settle for a piece of Brass.  Nehushtan will never be good enough for the child of God.  Settle instead for Bread that nourishes and strengthens.  “He that eateth of THIS bread shall live FOREVER”

Do YOU want a piece of brass, or a piece of bread?

“You’ve heard his voice”, Barry McGuire



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